Don Wachlin: 1948-2011
January 8, 2012, Sherwood, Oregon. A packed crowd of friends and family gathered for the ceremony at the local Lutheran church where Don Wachlin (to us, Farmer Don) was to be buried in the small cemetery lot, a mere few hundred yards from the church his ancestors helped to build.
We had come to know Farmer Don from doing a story on him and his century old family farm in the Fall of 2007. Immediately, he stood out as a natural born storyteller. Since then, almost every year, our family would pick strawberries, purchase produce and fruit from his farm store, and truly enjoyed visiting his farm during the Halloween season. Don had a playful side to him, and he seemed to really enjoy the crowds that would gather at his farm to shoot pumpkins at an old school bus, using an air cannon he made by welding together old metal parts.
Over the past several years, Rebecca and I have been touched by his warmth and generosity, and have benefited from his help on projects for CUPS. As a fourth generation farmer, he had a passion for farming, and an intimate knowledge of his community. In a written tribute to her dad after his passing, Mary writes:
“Dad would help anyone—as long as they could get through to him on his dang cell phone, or find him—fitting in favors between the thirty odd jobs he juggled along with the full time job of being a farmer, store owner, and family man.”
That was the kind of man that he was. Perhaps his daughter Mary summed it up most succinctly, describing him as: “a hardworking farmer who lived a good life.”
The average farmer in this country is 57 years old, and aging upward. Farmers, like Don Wachlin, who work tirelessly in the field to produce good food, and are solid members of their community, represent our unsung heroes.